Gerald Griffith HeadshotYour Approach Matters!

Whether online or off, the idea of networking with others is a good one. However, there are some basic mistakes people make on a regular basis which hinder their efforts and cause them to fall well short of their desire to find new opportunities or long-term business relationships. In this article, we’ll explore the need for you to develop an Entrepreneur’s Mindset.

For starters, let’s talk about what networking is. According to Wikipedia, ‘Networking’ is defined as:

Networking is a socioeconomic business activity in which businesspeople and Entrepreneur’s meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities,[1] share information and seek potential partners for ventures.

It goes on to define a “Business Network” a type of business social network which is developed to help businesspeople connect with other managers and Entrepreneur’s to further each other’s business interests by forming mutually beneficial business relationships.“

Please note that there’s no place in either definition where the term or phrase, “finding a job” is mentioned. However, in both cases, we see the words “Relationships.” From this, we can draw the conclusion that networking is very different than prospecting for jobs which are what many talent find themselves doing. The failure to understand the very premise of what networking lay at the heart of this problem.

In my role as Executive Producer for an annual conference for voice actors (VO Atlanta), I’m regularly asked if there are going to be people at the conference who can give them a job. More commonly, I’m asked about the number of agents expected at the conference as if an agent’s presence greatly increases their odds of gaining representation and thus a ‘job.’

The person seeking a ‘job’ is stuck in the position of an employee who expects others to do the work of providing the work they do. This isn’t uncommon, or unexpected, as most of us grow up being taught to do well in school, get good grades, and play nice because we want to position ourselves to ‘get a good job.’ This mindset carries over into the world of voiceover (Entrepreneurship) where it creates some serious issues.

I recall opening sessions at my office here in Atlanta for people taking the “Introduction to Voiceover” training session. Before turning the session over to their trainer, I’d ask how many people were there for the “Small Business Class?” There would be confused look in the room because they didn’t understand the question. I’d pause for a moment and ask “Who’s here for the Introduction to Voiceover session?” All the hands would go up in the room.

After a brief pause, I’d ask if they knew that I asked them the same question twice. It was at that moment we had a discussion about the fact that becoming a voice actor meant becoming a small business owner and their need to have an Entrepreneur’s Mindset.

When you’re the small business owner, i.e. The Entrepreneur, you have to develop Entrepreneur’s Mindset that replaces the Employee Mindset which expects others to do the work of generating the work you do. Once this is done, the entire approach towards networking will change. The approach will go from what someone can do for you and instead shift towards understanding what opportunities exist between you and the others that benefit your common business interest. You will begin to seek out meaningful relationships versus feverously working to see how many business cards you can pass out in a 5-minute span of time.

I recall a conversation with an agent where they shared their experience of attending events and having talent talk to them for 10 minutes without ever asking anything about what they or their agency needed. The entire talk was about them and why they should be signed to a roster. The mindset was all wrong. The talent was looking for a job. They had an employee mindset, which too often smells of neediness and desperation.

The Entrepreneur’s Mindset would focus on understanding the needs of the agent or agency and then craft a very specific message that speaks to why they might be an ideal candidate. If no such opportunity exists,  it’s okay to move on after offering to help refer anyone you may know that might be a good fit for their communicated needs.

I’d like to leave you with a concept which I believe will help you in your networking effort. That’s the concept of ‘Threads.’ A thread is a common common element existing between two, or more parties. While these threads may connect around a profession, it’s best that they extend well beyond a mere business connection. An example of threads may be:

  • Growing up in the same city (geographic affiliation)
  • Attending the same college (alumni)
  • Having worked for the same company
  • Entered business at the same time (before the internet)
  • Shared hobbies or social interest (photography, fishing)
  • Shared life experience (travel)
  • Similar family structure (both have kids the same age)

This is a short list, but it provides some common points where you might find a thread that connects you beyond your being a talent hoping to land your next big job. You will be remembered much more for the fact that you attended the same college versus the cool new business card with the big microphone you just purchased prior to the event with the ‘VistaPrint’ markings on the back.

The Entrepreneur’s Mind is one that’s developed over time and is constantly looking for ways to improve and evolve. When networking, The Entrepreneur’s Mindset is looking to discover ways to ‘develop mutually beneficial business relationships.’

Beyond all the talk of business and business interest, remember to be a good and decent human being. Respect the space and time of others. Be courteous. Be kind. Who knows, you may just discover that those you’re networking with appreciating the fact that you’re a person they would love to work with and go out of their way to create an opportunity just for you.